Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dopers Suck.

Dopers really do suck. This year's Tour de France has been hit severely by doping scandals and rider expulsions. Sponsors have pulled out of teams and for a moment it looked like the world of road cycling was about to come to an abrupt demise. Doom hung in the air like bad BO in a dank locker room.

In 1998, the Tour was rocked by the infamous Festina Affair. The road market at that time took a pretty solid hit. At that time though, the US market was still maturing into a road revival of sorts, so the hit was smaller here than it was for Europe. Still, it was noticeable. 1999 saw the first of Lance's seven Tour wins though and the US market started to climb again and the European market began to turn back around a couple years later as the media circus around Lance drew more and more attention to the sport.

This year's scandal has some bad things working with it to make things a little spooky again; Lance is retired so the US market is less interested (even with Floyd now in the lead of the Tour, as of today), the scandal impacts several teams and not just one and the road market is beginning to slow down on its own. All of these could combine for a "perfect storm" and really knock road sales back on their butt. Hopefully not...

Here is the good side of the story; in regards to the US market, the rise of other American riders has lessened the negative impact of Lance's departure (although Trek still seems to be marketing themselves as Lance's bike, as opposed to the rest of the team's), the market is still growing though slower than previous years, the Tour is still very exciting this year and is full of constant drama and the fans seem to be excited. Maybe, just maybe, the sport and the industry will survive.

Drug scandals rock all sports pretty badly from time to time. The whole Barry Bonds and Marion Jones BALCO drug scandal shook both baseball and track & field pretty good, but both have rebounded. Cycling is no different really. If anything, cycling gets a much worse reputation than it deserves- not that it isn't rife with doping problems. Cycling needs to clean up before it loses the fans and the sponsors both. The fans are becoming somewhat desensitized to the frequent doping allegations. That numbness might be one of the things to save the sport, as more and more fans seem to be simply accepting that incredible physical accomplishments seem to always come with strings attached.

Krew member Donna Tocci had some great thoughts about all of this and the far-reaching impacts. It is a big spider web and it reaches a lot of seemingly unrelated people. Drugs are like that- in sport as in life in general. The key for the cycling industry is to come clean and face the issue head on with honesty and transparency. By keeping the sponsors and fans happy that a solution is being sought, the sport might just keep both parties interested. For us marketers, it's going to mean spending a little less time focusing all our energies on one particular rider, but on the team instead- if involved in team sponsorships. If not, it's time to focus on the joy of cycling and less on racing. As this all plays out and things get even uglier, many sponsors are going to want to distance themselves from the stickinesss.

It should be an interesting summer as those of us in the industry watch to see what happens next.

So what is your take? Hell in a handbasket, or just a tempest in a tea cup?

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:23 PM

6 Comments

  1. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 4:43 AM  
    Thanks for posting, Tim. Things are so crazy, I haven't had time to post over here and I know we are letting people down. Sorry gang, but the Tour DAY France is on and we are getting a little caught up in that on our individual blogs. I have a pile of things I've seen or think to comment on here on my desk for you all, just haven't got to it. I will soon!!

    Tim - I hadn't thought about the comparison with drugs in sport and drugs in personal lives that you have here - both having far reaching impacts. Good observation!

    As for my thoughts about how the industry will be/is being effected by the drug scandal....Speaking about the US only, I think that Mr. Landis is doing quite a lot right now to help keep interest in cycling in a couple of ways.
    1. He's answering the public's question of 'who is the next Lance'. He's not Lance (thank goodness), he's a very different person and rider. However, he's American and he's kicking butt and that's generally what the American sport fan wants to see.

    2. He's got a great 'underdog' story, if you will, with that hip issue. The media and public eat that stuff up. I'll bet OLN coverage went up a little bit this week after that announcement. Who doesn't love a story like this - triumph over tragedy??? It's what made Lance that first year back (before the win, during the race). Imagine what the media hype will be next year if Floyd comes back from replacement surgery to race again. Yikes! Get that man his own security detail!

    My point being - the hip story has refocused people's attention away from the doping scandal. Heck, Floyd's team doctor went so far as to say he's not even taking legal pain meds for the hip. He's making a strong statement that he is completely drug free and let's move on to what is important - getting up then next huge mountain stage!

    I think people who do tune in to the Tour will be inspired by Floyd and gain some enthusiasm by what he's doing. Does that sell bikes? All those bike companies that are supporting teams must think so. Masiguy, you can comment on that better than I. I can guess that it won't make someone give up riding!

    Wow - that was a longer ramble than I thought!

    Thanks for stopping by and reading it all!

    Enjoy the rest of Le Tour.

    Allez Floyd!
  2. Anonymous IB Rich posted at 9:16 AM  
    You know, the dopers do suck. I always hear people on sports talk radio saying "who cares" if the pro's want to dope up. The way I feel about it is that if my son grows up to be a bike racer(and with the name Sean Kelly how could he not?) do I want him to have to dope to be competitive? Absolutely not. I think so many people see these athletes as another species because of the talents and millions that they earn. When you bring it close to home and think about a child or family member of yours doping, it can really change your opinion.
    What's sadder, I think, is that I've heard from some old racing mates of mine that are still going at it on the USCF circuit, that the same drugs are turning up in the weekend warrior categories. I've heard that getting EPO is not that expensive or difficult - and there's no testing. If you've raced Cat 3 or above, you know how competitive people take their racing. From the amount they spend on equipment to the amount of time they spend training and away from family on weekends, does it really surprise you that they would look to drugs to get an edge?
    The bubble's got to burst sooner or later in the pro peloton on this whole drug thing, doesn't it? It can't stay a big secret forever.
  3. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 9:25 AM  
    Rich-

    Excellent connection to the local racers and family.

    I don't want either of my children to ever think doping is ok, whatever they do.

    Yes, the SoCal race scene is full of drugs and dopers- all to win a $25.00 prime in some no-name office park weekend crit? I had a teammate who spent winters doping like he was headed to the Tour. It grosses me out to see guys doping in the Masters field now too. Many of these idiots have kids too. What the hell kind of example is that? It's repulsive.

    Yeah, I'd love to be able to contend for a medal at Nationals again, but there is a line a won't cross, well two lines; 1) no doping, 2) I'm not giving up beer to lose the weight... not happening.
  4. Blogger Dave Thompson posted at 8:25 AM  
    WOW Floyd is cranking, and I am excited to see what the outcome is going to be…
    With 7 stages to go anything can happen, but my money is on Floyd!
    In my previous blog posting on Donna’s site this is what I was taking about… It will take a CLEAN rider to prove the entire world wrong, but in the end we will unfortunately hear all of the lawyers speak for Ulrich , Basso and Vino

    I just want to thank Floyd for proving the cycling community wrong!
    Keep up the good work Floyd, I can’t wait to see you in all of the new Giro and Oakley ads
  5. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 12:49 PM  
    Hmm...I see a bit less of a buzz now that Lance is gone and the "us vs. them" situation has gone to a "free for all" in the GC standings at this years Tour. I think we "bike nuts" love it, but it's a bit confusing for your average cyclists who don't understand racing and like Tim, are not about to give up their beers!

    The top contenders are all swept away just before the starting flag waves and what is the "common cyclist" to think? I'm not sure it's a total condemnation of the peloton as much as it is a simple loss of interest. Who is Oscar Periero anyway? ( current Tour leader, and YES, I know who he is)

    The current energy crisis has alot more traction now for the industry and we should be playing to that. Racing and it's positive stories are always good, but fleeting in the minds of consumers. Shouldn't we be capitalizing on the current state of economics right now? Road biking, commuter rigs, hybrid, and comfort bike sales all could benefit. Shimano has that bulbous, whatcha ma callit gruppo coming out soon. This is perhaps an opportunity that we shouldn't look lightly upon. Not just for cycling, but for our nation, and the world.

    .........no, REALLY! We should get on this.
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